SpaceX plans to get humans on Mars

Aug 03, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
Space X

At an August conference hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed plans for how they hope to get humans on Mars within the next 20 years.

In order to get to , they need to be able to transport a significant amount of cargo and people and this, according to Musk, will require a fully reusable rocket and they are working to make their Falcon 9 rocket just that. The Falcon 9 rocket is designed to generate 1700 metric tons of thrust which would make it easily capable of transporting satellites, cargo and humans.

Unfortunately creating a fully reusable rocket is not proving easy. With just 0.3 percent of the Falcon 9 launch cost being propellant, the target is to create a complete launch system that is fully reusable in order to reduce the cost of launches. So far engineers have not been able to provide the level of protection needed to be able to reuse the first and second stages.

On paper, they have created something that they hope will prove effective. They are looking at restarting the engines in order to slow down the first stage and shed some of the velocity. However, in order to do this, they have to look at payload loss of fuel in orbit, better thermal shielding and increased structural margins for recovery.

Musk announced plans to demonstrate a new Falcon Heavy rocket in the later part of 2012 or the first part of 2013. This rocket will be capable of delivering 10 to 15 metric tons, but they hope to make it capable of delivering 50 metric tons and be fully reusable in the future.

They are discussing a project with to use their Dragon capsule and Falcon rocket for an exploratory mission to Mars and they hope to be ready for this mission by 2018.

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User comments : 98

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BenjaminButton
5 / 5 (15) Aug 03, 2011
Go for it...hope they get it done! Exactly the kind of audacious adventurism we need!
hyongx
3 / 5 (14) Aug 03, 2011
Title should really be: SpaceX plans to create reusable rockets.
Also, I don't think people need to go to mars... yet. By the time our space-faring technology enables us to put humans on mars, I expect we'll be able to make sufficiently versatile and autonomous robots that ridiculously complex (expensive) life support systems would be unjustifiable.
SCVGoodToGo
3.9 / 5 (10) Aug 03, 2011
I expect we'll be able to make sufficiently versatile and autonomous robots


Yes soon everyone can explore the martian desert with their iRobot from the comfort of their own home while playing second life and looking at facebook and doing everything else remotely. Seems like the spirit of exploration is becoming as obsolete as humanity is.
joefarah
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 03, 2011
That's one small step for ibot, one giant leap for botkind
Vendicar_Decarian
1.8 / 5 (19) Aug 03, 2011
Next week they will announce that they will be flying monkeys to Andromeda.

Maybe they should wait until they can show that they can reliably put bananas into orbit without blowing up.
DocM
5 / 5 (21) Aug 03, 2011
FYI: SpaceX put a qualification Dragon in orbit last summer, then in December they orbited a fully functional Dragon, which did orbits, maneuvered in orbit, and came down about 800 meters from its pickup ship off California. By comparison, Soyuz is lucky to come down within 20km of its landing zone. A third Dragon launches around November 30th, and is scheduled to berth at the ISS with cargo a couple days later.

A separate item from that conference is that they'll be coming out with a staged combustion engine. If this is the long-planned Merlin 2 then it would be in the same class as the F1 engine used in the Saturn V moon rocket. They have the technology base having obtained the tech for Rocketdyne's RS-84 reusable heavy engine, and they certainly have the propulsion engineers.

Merlin 2 is the enabling tech for SpaceX's Falcon XX concept; a 160-200 metric ton to LEO launcher that would be more than capable of a Mars mission, and then some. A true monst
lovenugget
2 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2011
I'm not an expert but I don't think we should wait to go to mars. The longer we wait, the more complacent we'll become. Some terraforming would be beneficial... like dropping ammonia-producing microbes on the surface to prepare the soil for plants! As better technology is invented, we can simply drop it on the surface for pick-up, and colonization can continue.
that_guy
4.9 / 5 (11) Aug 03, 2011
When spaceX first started flubbing the falcon 1 launches, I didn't think they would get anywhere. However, they have turned around from an amatuer rocket company just learning the ropes, to an bleeding edge force that is making leaps and bounds successfully, and ahead of schedule.

For this very reason, I believe what musk says is thought out and attainable. He knows how to manage that company, and he has the right people employed to make it happen.

Fuel is only .3 percent of the cost?? No wonder the soyuz is so successful. If the fuel is such a small part of the launch cost, you would want to make your rocket as simple as reasonably possible.
Shootist
3.3 / 5 (12) Aug 03, 2011
Faster, please.
rbrtwjohnson
3.1 / 5 (7) Aug 03, 2011
20 years is much time to wait for. We need more cutting edges technologies to get humans on Mars within our short lifetime. www.youtube.com/w...xPghXTCg
holoman
1.6 / 5 (13) Aug 03, 2011
This is the same old technology invented 60 years ago.

Doesn't anyone have an outside the box technology that
will do a better job than this model A stuff.
maxcypher
3.1 / 5 (7) Aug 03, 2011
Orbital elevator. The only tech holding us up is the material that would make the cable strong enough. The pace at which we're developing nano tech makes me think we will get that material in the next decade.
Telekinetic
1.2 / 5 (18) Aug 03, 2011
His name is Yevgeny Podkletnov and will soon divulge a device that shields objects from gravity. Before you jackals start licking your chops, look him up on other than the usual skeptic's sites so I don't have to for you.
shockr
4.3 / 5 (4) Aug 03, 2011
His name is Yevgeny Podkletnov and will soon divulge a device that shields objects from gravity. Before you jackals start licking your chops, look him up on other than the usual skeptic's sites so I don't have to for you.


Podkletnov has been quiet for a number of years now. Thought he'd either given up or realised it wasn't effective enough etc..

Have you got links to something newer than a 2003 article about him?
DocM
4.6 / 5 (10) Aug 03, 2011
This is the same old technology invented 60 years ago.

Doesn't anyone have an outside the box technology that
will do a better job than this model A stuff.

The laws of physics and chemistry haven't changed since 1960.

Capsules still have the highest volumetric efficiency, especially ones with a 15 degree sidewall like Dragon, and they are very safe during re-entry. Spaceplanes have their uses, but wings in space have the side effects of lowering payload capacity vs. vehicle mass and having more failure modes.

While Falcon 9 looks similar to typical rockets it's very different in key ways; it's made to be human rated, it has engine out capability (lose 1-2 engines and it can still finish the mission) and its engines are far simpler and cheaper to build - a production line vs. hand built and custom machining.
Telekinetic
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 03, 2011
His name is Yevgeny Podkletnov and will soon divulge a device that shields objects from gravity. Before you jackals start licking your chops, look him up on other than the usual skeptic's sites so I don't have to for you.


Podkletnov has been quiet for a number of years now. Thought he'd either given up or realised it wasn't effective enough etc..

Have you got links to something newer than a 2003 article about him?

www.ptep-online.c...0-13.PDF
I hope you can access this- it treats his work with the respect it deserves.
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (16) Aug 03, 2011
but I don't think we should wait to go to mars.

Is anyone asking you to go?
Are you being asked to pay for it?
If not, why don't you think someone else should go if they want to take the risk?
cwaddell
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
So is it "legally ethical" for a Private contractor to send people into "Deep Space"... Like missions further than Mars. I guess turning space into the new "Atlantic" to be crossed to find the "New World". But yeah, can people sign up to a mission they may not "return from"?
eachus
not rated yet Aug 03, 2011
http://www.ptep-online.com/index_files/2007/PP-10-13.PDF
I hope you can access this- it treats his work with the respect it deserves.


To say that this paper goes a bit deep into General Relativity would be quite an understatement. In fact, it is probably worth putting this through MATLAB, Maple, or Sage to insure that the approximations used are legitimate.

Once past that though, I think the first embodiment of this system was the Dean Drive, discussed for years in Astounding/Analog Science Fiction magazine. (Late '50s early '60s.) Since they didn't have the right theory, trying to go from reduced gravity to flying models always resulted in lots of flying debris. (You can find the problem in section 4 of the paper. Parts of the engine are not subject to the reduced gravity, other parts are. Unbalanced, not designed for, stresses on the order of 2G on lightweight, high-speed rotating machinery? You want to keep your distance.)
ISEEE
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2011
Would these rocket companies be angry if the space elevator became a reality within the next 3 years and would they contribute and abandon their current protocols.
Deesky
4.3 / 5 (11) Aug 03, 2011
www.ptep-online.c...0-13.PDF
hope you can access this it treats his work with the respect it deserves

Respect? Hmmm. Let's see how much respect should be accorded to this publication.

The paper is published in the online journal "Progress in Physics". This is an 'alternative' scientific journal which aims to promote 'fair' and 'non-commercialized' science (as opposed to just science?). It's interesting to read the journal's Declaration of Academic Freedom:
Owing to furtive jealousy and vested interest, modern science abhors open discussion and willfully banishes those scientists who question the orthodox views. Very often, scientists of outstanding ability, who point out deficiencies in current theory or interpretation of data, are labelled as crackpots, so that their views can be conveniently ignored

Yup, sounds like a crank's motto. Furthermore, they claim to be peer-reviewed but the review procedure isn't stated and the referees of the papers published are not listed.
Telekinetic
1.8 / 5 (15) Aug 03, 2011
"Yup, sounds like a crank's motto. Furthermore, they claim to be peer-reviewed but the review procedure isn't stated and the referees of the papers published are not listed."

If you could get through even a fraction of the equations used in this paper, I would be impressed, but you can't, making you unqualified to comment about its veracity. Yup.
PhillyJimi
5 / 5 (7) Aug 03, 2011
This is the same old technology invented 60 years ago.

Doesn't anyone have an outside the box technology that
will do a better job than this model A stuff.


The gasoline engine for cars seems to be doing just fine. Elon Musk is so right about a reusable rocket. This is the holy grail of space flight. If a $100 million rocket can only launch 1 time versus a $250 million rocket can launch 100 times, that becomes $2.5 million/launch. This is the true break through in space travel we have all been waiting for.

I imagine some kind of air bag/air foil system and parachute glider type of technology to have the first stage skim into the ocean rather then smash into it. Along with a mini retro rocket using the last 5% of fuel to help slow it down at a critical point on it's return.

Elon wants to recover a Falcon 9 first stage just to see what kind of damage is done to it when it crashes into the ocean. That becomes the starting point.
PhillyJimi
5 / 5 (8) Aug 04, 2011
Would these rocket companies be angry if the space elevator became a reality within the next 3 years and would they contribute and abandon their current protocols.


The other end of the space elevator needs to be at GEO. That is a 165,000 miles away. Even if we had a magical rope strong enough to do the job and if it only weighs 100lbs/mile that is 16,000,000 lbs of rope that has to get up to GEO.

Payload to LEO and about 3% of a rocket's weight. Now your talking about a rocket that can produce about 500 million pounds of thrust. The Saturn V the biggest BFR ever did about 7 million. 71x's larger or a 4 mile high rocket which kind of defeats the purpose for an elevator in the first place.

How would you build it? Imagine how large a 165,000s mile of rope would be? The circumference of earth is ~25,000 miles. The spool would be hundreds of miles high.

I love the idea of a space elevator but it seem like total science fiction in 2011. A reusable rocket doesn't.

Sinister1811
1 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2011
Now we're talking!

Let's hope they send people there soon. I'm sure none of us here are getting any younger.
ISEEE
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
Would these rocket companies be angry if the space elevator became a reality within the next 3 years and would they contribute and abandon their current protocols.


How would you build it? Imagine how large a 165,000s mile of rope would be? The circumference of earth is ~25,000 miles. The spool would be hundreds of miles high.

I love the idea of a space elevator but it seem like total science fiction in 2011. A reusable rocket doesn't.


We'll see, saw it here. www.spacestarline.com
CasusUniversum
4 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2011
I'm all for the exploration of space, but real space exploration will only truly take off when there is some economical value to it, ie, the He-3 on the moon. The He-3 thing is hardly a new concept, google it, it would more than make up for the cost of "mining" it, as well as helping to launch future missions into space by providing us with a great potential fuel. I guess what I'm saying is that since the biggest threat to space exploration isn't technology but economy, I would love to see more companies focusing on that before putting a man on mars.

That being said, the attempt to put a man on mars will absolutely spawn new technological advancements that will help mankind populate the universe in the long-run, so good luck, SpaceX!
GSwift7
1.9 / 5 (8) Aug 04, 2011
to DocM:

capsules still have the highest volumetric efficiency, especially ones with a 15 degree sidewall like Dragon, and they are very safe during re-entry.


You wouldn't want to use that shape for Mars entry. I also don't think you would want to take your Earth re-entry vehicle all the way to Mars and back. You could launch it later and meet up with it when you get back.

To the space elevator people: That's complete fiction for Earth. The strength of the cable is only one issue. Anchoring the bottom end is nearly impossible. Wind stresses would be unbelievable. It would be many times worse than the sway you get at the top of the tallest buildings. There isn't anything you could build on the ground that would be strong enough to handle the stress and any kind of repairs to the cable or base would be so expensive that it would be a national crisis. You will never be able to match cost versus benefit. The Moon is out too. Elevators need just the right body to work.
dan42day
2.8 / 5 (6) Aug 04, 2011
This is the same old technology invented 60 years ago.

Doesn't anyone have an outside the box technology that
will do a better job than this model A stuff.


I keep imagining some kind of nanotechnology that would array billions of tiny particle accelerators on a small chip. Each would shoot a single ion of some gas at 10% of the speed of light or more. A one inch chip might produce a pound or two of thrust. Millions of chips would cover the bottom of the ship, which ironically would be saucer shaped to provide enough surface area. Some sort of nuclear power source would provide electrical energy to run it. It would require much less propellent than a rocket and could carry enough to deccelerate from orbital speeds above the atmosphere instead of requiring a heat shield for re-entry.

The powerfull particle beam could be directed as a phased array for use as a formidible weapon. I could take over the world!

Oops! Must be time for my medicine.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2011
How would you build it? Imagine how large a 165,000s mile of rope would be? The circumference of earth is ~25,000 miles. The spool would be hundreds of miles high


lol, good point. Assuming that you could go all the way out and grab an asteroid with just the right materials, then launch and build a rope manufacturing plant in orbit, you could make the rope in orbit. That's silly, but even if we pretend that's practical, as you lower the rope down through the atmosphere, the bottom end of the rope would be flailing around like mad. Just getting it to touch down in the right country would be a miracle, and it would be moving up and down so violently that it would probably break the sound barrier every time it jerked up. The vertical forces from diflection in the middle would be unmanageable and they would never stop. IF you managed to secure the bottom, the first time the middle bulged to one side you'd yank the counterweight at the top right down to Earth. Using it: suicide.
CasusUniversum
5 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2011
I keep imagining some kind of nanotechnology that would array billions of tiny particle accelerators on a small chip. Each would shoot a single ion of some gas at 10% of the speed of light or more...


It's called a plasma propulsion engine and it's 50 years old, the only difference is that no design is as inefficient as what you are proposing (wiki plasma propulsion engine)

Also, you gave me a flashback of my old creepy-ass roommate with a pedo-beard who thought he was a genius and I peed myself a little...
GSwift7
2 / 5 (8) Aug 04, 2011
Back on topic:

As for SpaceX getting to Mars. I'm not sure if they will complete it, but someone will soon. The cost to do it efficiently is so much lower than what it costs any government agency that you are guaranteed a return on investment for the first few trips. I'm sure you could finance the whole venture before you leave the ground as long as you can demonstrate your Earth launch capabilities first. If you are able to go, then people will pay you up front for the samples. If you can do it cheaper than NASA/ESA who are tied down by politics, then you'll make a pile of money at first. The problem comes after a few missions, when everyone with cash already has a sample. Unless we find something on Mars that we don't have here, it's a dead end except for pure science or recreation. Wanna take bets on whether the first manned trip to Mars includes a billionair tourist?
Deesky
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 04, 2011
As for SpaceX getting to Mars. I'm not sure if they will complete it, but someone will soon.

I doubt that very much. Best case scenario would be a trip there, do a few orbits around the planet and the get back soon before the increasing Earth/Mars distance makes it impossible (given fuel, air, water and food supplies).

But even if you tried that kind of mission, you would still be fried by radiation without using massive amounts of shielding, which in turn, would place severe limits on payloads. Such a mission might be achievable in time, but not any time soon, imo.
DocM
5 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2011
to DocM:

capsules still have the highest volumetric efficiency, especially ones with a 15 degree sidewall like Dragon, and they are very safe during re-entry.


You wouldn't want to use that shape for Mars entry. I also don't think you would want to take your Earth re-entry vehicle all the way to Mars and back. You could launch it later and meet up with it when you get.

Can't do Mars with that shape 'eh? I guess that's why NASA Ames is working with SpaceX on the Red Dragon mission - a Dragon to Mars to drill 1 meter into the permafrost/ice looking for signs of biology using the crew-Dragon's Super Draco propulsive landing/abort thrusters to decelerate to landing.

Dragon's heatshield, PICA-X, is an improved version of the PICA shield NASA used on Stardust and will use for the upcoming Curiosity Mars rover mission - good for lunar, Mars and BEO re-entries. And, the sidewalls are also shielded.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2011
This is the same old technology invented 60 years ago.

Doesn't anyone have an outside the box technology that
will do a better job than this model A stuff.


There is the Skylon hybrid rocket-jet that is fully reusable and uses 20% less fuel to get to LEO than standard rockets.

If only ESA would get up their asses and stop throwing pennies at the project.
Eoprime
5 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2011

We'll see, saw it here. http://www.spacestarline.com


Amusing,
from the site: Space Elevator Tech -> Coming soon.
DocM
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011
The big problems with space elevators are twofold -

a) no nanotube material has yet been made with long enough tubes to make it possible

b) it's slow, making human transport through the Van Allen radiation belts very, very problematic. A fast dash in a shielded capsule is one thing, but a slow ride in the elevator is another.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (8) Aug 04, 2011
But even if you tried that kind of mission, you would still be fried by radiation without using massive amounts of shielding, which in turn,


Volunteers will be lined up for miles, despite the certain danger. I'll bet half the people here would do it. They shouldn't have any trouble surviving the durration of the trip, but they would certainly not need to save up much money for birthday candles, even if they return safely. NASA/ESA couldn't do it because of the political correctness of a suicide mission. A private company doesn't have that issue. You just make death benefits and medical treatment part of the compensation package and its a done deal.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2011
Can't do Mars with that shape 'eh? I guess that's why NASA Ames is working with SpaceX on the Red Dragon mission


First, that's not what I said. I said you wouldn't want to use the same shape for both Mars and Earth. Your Mars lander would be much larger and heavier, and as you said, the heat shield would be completely different. The Mars lander also needs to be optimized for re-launch, not just landing, so it'll have a nose cone and body designed for that. I'm sure you could make one vehicle to land in both places, but why would you want to? The whole thing will be contaminated by radiation, and the heat shield is ablative, so non-reusable. The parachutes are completely different. The Earth entry vehicle doesn't need thrusters or fuel. We have several reliable options for Earth return. You could mate with a soyuz, for example. It's much simpler to design your Mars lander just for Mars.
DocM
5 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2011
PICA-X is reusable.

Lander and Earth Return Vehicle don't have to be the same one, but both can be Dragon detived using the same engineering bay, thrusters, landing gear etc. SpaceX has made it clear that Dragon is to be multi-purpose in many ways. The vehicle left behind could be refueled and use as storage, short cargo hops etc. Similar to Lockheeds lunar lander concept of a few years ago.
Skepticus_Rex
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 04, 2011
I just hope they don't have any major failures like Orbital Sciences Corporation. I'm still pissed about the losses of OCO and GLORY and hope that SpaceX can hold a better track record with important missions.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2011
Lander and Earth Return Vehicle don't have to be the same one, but both can be Dragon detived using the same engineering bay, thrusters, landing gear etc. SpaceX has made it clear that Dragon is to be multi-purpose in many ways.


Yeah, it makes sense to create multipurpose equipment, and anything that works on Mars would also work for a number of other locations. It's kinda strange how Earth is so unique in terms of atmosphere and gravity. I would assume that any lander capable of setting down on Mars would have little difficulty getting to the Moon also. You could ditch the heat shield and parachutes though.
surfacedweller
1 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2011
As incredible (and crankpot) as it might sound, we will actually solve gravity within a decade... everything changes after that. But, there's more... since in solving gravity, we will solve a great many other mysteries about ourselves as well. Yea! Not so fast... unfortunately, we will also be faced with the biggest challenges to humanity of all time; how we procede will determine whether, or not our species survives.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2011
"His name is Yevgeny Podkletnov and will soon divulge a device that shields objects from gravity." - Flatch

Wow, overunity perpetual motion is finally here....
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Aug 04, 2011
"since in solving gravity.." - Surfacedweller

Then we can go on to solve electricity, and then cheese.

I wasn't aware that gravity was a problem that had a solution.
I thought it was a fundamental property of energy.

The_P
not rated yet Aug 04, 2011

I thought it was a fundamental property of energy.

There you go thinking again, geez.
Bobamus_Prime
not rated yet Aug 05, 2011

I thought it was a fundamental property of energy.

that's TOTALLY an outdated way of thinking
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (9) Aug 05, 2011
back on topic:

Someone else already said this, but it echoed my thoughts, so I'd like to repeat it.

When SpaceX got started they said a bunch of stuff and I really didn't take them seriously.

There's a scene in the movie "Independence Day" where Jeff Goldbloom says to Will Smith something like "Do you really think you can fly that thing?" and the response was something like "Do you really think you can do all that stuff you just said?".

Well, SpaceX has continuously surprised me by "doing all that stuff they just said". They aren't on the radar of the average person on the street, but if they keep it up, they'll be in the history books of future generations for sure. The things they've already done are exceptional. If they can make a Mars trip I'll fall on the floor in astonishment.
Skepticus_Rex
2.4 / 5 (10) Aug 05, 2011
If they make it to Mars, and I manage to live that long to witness it, I'll be glued to the television like I was for Apollo 11. It will also be most impressive seeing a corporation go there before NASA. If things keep going the way that they are, that likely will be a realistic prediction on my part.
GSwift7
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 05, 2011
Here's a good question:

If SpaceX sends people to Mars (or any other place), would they hire their own astronauts? I wonder what the plan would be. They could send their own people and then charge money to perform experiments and collect samples for other agencies. They could also sell seats and let other agencies send their own people. The first person on Mars could be whoever the highest bidder is. Who would pay the most for it? China, Saudi Arabia, USA, EU, Japan, Bill Gates, George Soros, Fox News, Budwiser? Imagine space suits with a Nike logo on them? A space ship painted like a Coke can? Hmmm.
Skepticus_Rex
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 05, 2011
For those wanting to see the short-and-sweet version of what we are up against for a manned Mars mission with a return flight, here is a link:

http://video.pbs....2557302/

It is not insurmountable, however. Some of the technologies seen in this video are a move in the right direction. It would be nice to create radiation shielding and deflector technology, but much of that still sits in the realm of science fiction.

Good luck, SpaceX. You are going to need it and I hope it works out for you and for all of us as a result of a successful mission.
stripeless_zebra
1 / 5 (11) Aug 05, 2011
Again and again Elon Musk sounds like a salesman who makes empty promises to get millions from the government looking into options to privatize NASA. So far this individual is only good at one thing - sucking up hundreds of millions of taxpayers money with a big smile on his face.
Send him to hell not Mars!
stripeless_zebra
3 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2011
making leaps and bounds successfully, and ahead of schedule.


I'm sorry to point out that they are well behind schedules and the two Falcon 9 test flights were far from being perfect. Also they started suffering from rising costs, major modifications and unpleasant surprises, exactly the path of Tesla Motors. Are you surprised? I am not.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2011
Mars?

On who's dime?
Y8Q412VBZP21010
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2011
Mars? On who's dime?


Yah. I'm all for exploration of the planets, but if it's just a high-price stunt for the glory of the thing, it's a hard sell to the taxpayer.

It would be nice if space tech was affordable enough so that interested parties could fund a crewed Mars mission without serious taxpayer support, but that's not in the cards for the forseeable future.
Telekinetic
2 / 5 (8) Aug 06, 2011
"Mars? On whose dime?"- VendiTard Custodian
Look who's the fiscally conservative Republican, all of a sudden.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2011
You aren't really falling for another RepubliScum scam are you?
DocM
5 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2011
@GSwift7 -

"If SpaceX sends people to Mars (or any other place), would they hire their own astronauts? I wonder what the plan would be."

SpaceX has already started their astronaut corps and have former top-notch NASA astronauts like Ken Bowersox setting it and Dragon's cockpit layout up, but they will also fly crew for other outfits like NASA or others headed for ISS or where ever.

With a crew capacity of up to 7, the full compliment would consist of at least a Commander who flies from launch to ISS approach and back down, and a Pilot who does the actual ISS docking and withdrawl. Not too unlike what's done with commercial shipping where you have a Captain who gets you there and Harbor Pilot.

The rest of the passengers would depend on the destination (ISS, Bigelow commercial station etc.) and the mission, and Dragon is designed from the ground up to be adaptable to many missions - manned and robotic, civilian and military.
Skultch
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2011
Who goes? I'd be afraid some billionaire will bribe his way past the fitness testing and add risk to the mission. I can see a private company colluding; accepting that increased risk, where NASA/ESA wouldn't do the same in the same situation. Sure, they've let people on the ISS, but that's hardly as risky a venture.

And I just don't want to hear it from the anarchist libertarians on this one; I'm in no mood for that right now.
DocM
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2011
For US spaceports and operators the FAA regulates suborbital and orbital launches, landings and training. The training itself will be done at the NASTAR Center. Their procedures had to meet the new FAA commercial spaceflight regulations to get accreditation, which was granted in April 2010. Other training centers will have to meet the same strict criteria.

http://www.nastarcenter.com/

The ISS international partners regulate access to ISS.

FYI those "anarchist libertarians" are among the strongest supporters of commercial space and NASA. The Tea Party Space Policy published last month was quite well thought out and pro-exploration, but critical of the old cost-plus procurement system and poor project management at NASA - which is the correct policy.
Vendicar_Decarian
2 / 5 (6) Aug 07, 2011
"Look who's the fiscally conservative Republican, all of a sudden." - telekenetic

For the last 30 years I have been telling "fiscally conservative" Republicans and Libertarians that they were borrowing their country into bankruptcy.

The Republican response has been to deny the problem, say "so what", or "Who cares?", or claim that nations can't go bankrupt, or simply respond that America will always be the worlds economic king.

Before they lost power, the Conservative Mindset was nicely summarized by VP Dick Cheney when he claimed that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

Like most Liberals, I am an economic realist, and when it comes to missions to Mars, I am smart enough to realize that any mission to mars is going to cost more than the collective worth of most of the worlds largest corporations.

Only a group of cooperating governments will have the revenue to embark on such a mission. Not even China will be able to do it on it's own.

Musk is simply selling his brand.
Vendicar_Decarian
1.6 / 5 (8) Aug 07, 2011
So when I see all of these pro-Mars fanbouys getting an erection over some nonsense chatter from a carnival barker, or a clown president about missions to Mars, it makes me laugh and immediately causes me to dramatically lower my assessment of the IQ scores of the easily excitable apes.

None of you will live long enough to see a man on Mars.

In fact, the Americans here will probably not live to see another manned mission into space that isn't purchased from China or Russia.

America after all is Fiscally, Culturally, Intellectually, Morally and Emotionally bankrupt.

ShotmanMaslo
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 07, 2011
The Tea Party Space Policy published last month was quite well thought out and pro-exploration


Political BS aside, the tea party space platform is indeed great plan for spaceflight, as a space enthusiast, I have to agree with that.
Buyck
not rated yet Aug 07, 2011
America is rising from there ashes. There are back on the scene since the space shuttle hase stopped !!!
fuviss_co_uk
not rated yet Aug 07, 2011
few months ago they've talk about early 2020's. :)
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Aug 07, 2011
For the last 30 years I have been telling "fiscally conservative" Republicans and Libertarians that they were borrowing their country into bankruptcy.

These 'fically conservative' Republicans were in fact 'liberals' like Vendy.
There is hope that Vendy believes govt must be funded with real wealth, but his 'progressive' policies have been proven to kill wealth.
stripeless_zebra
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2011
Musk is simply selling his brand


You got it right Mister!
This sales guy applied the same selling strategy to Tesla Motors. He was supposed to put the next Ford T on American roads, now he's promising to send that Ford T to the ISS and even Mars!
So far he's not even close to H. Ford's legacy

stripeless_zebra
3 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2011
None of you will live long enough to see a man on Mars.


Right, but we may see a man orbiting Mars and looks like a Russian citizen is going to volunteer. Getting a man to touch the martian soil is another far, far into future story.

In fact, the Americans here will probably not live to see another manned mission into space that isn't purchased from China or Russia.


Russian technology is already present in America, RD-180 rocket motors as an example and this cooperation is going to grow. China will heavily rely on Russian Know-How for some time.
And SpaceX will eventually fly with NASA's Know-How and brainpower, big delays and much higher operating costs.

America after all is Fiscally, Culturally, Intellectually, Morally and Emotionally bankrupt.


If so, what would you say about Europe?
Skepticus_Rex
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2011
If so, what would you say about Europe?


Well, given that at least two nations have been on the brink of bankruptcy (only to be saved therefrom via bailouts from the EU) and another whose credit rating was dropped before that of United States of America, I'd say that they are not far behind us if not on equal footing.

Just saying... :)
Sin_Amos
not rated yet Aug 07, 2011
@Vendicar_Decarian
You are desperately unaware of certain human beings that exist. There are no limits.
Leopold6
5 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2011
Living in the Houston NASA area i have seen its ups and downs when it comes to space techology and exploration. Especialy seeing one shuttle blow up above Texas recently and one when i was a kid in school when that teacher blew up in space with the whole world watching. They even had some robot wonder desert up there with blind luck it lasted as long as it did but still no human trip has been done. Maybe in a 50 year time span seems to give mankind more time to plan a mission of such a task. There have been many books and plans to settle Mars but that just in science fiction books today. They really need to explore deep space closer to home. Maybe a base on the moon studying the climate changes there and on the Earth, something. But having modern transportation to get there is important and from there one day shoot a team of astronauts to Mars, if mankind dares to venture beyond its horizons in his mind again.
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (9) Aug 08, 2011
I wonder how successfull you could be with running a live space mission as a pay-per-view TV event? Any human mission beyond Earth orbit would certainly draw some public interest. If you really pushed the advertising and set it up like a big sports event, you might be able to sell advertising in stead of pay-per-view. You could even start a weekly documentary/reality TV series prior to launch. There's a lot of ways you could market a manned mission that NASA/ESA do not do.

Would that be good for the space industry though? I think it might be, if done well.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Aug 08, 2011
Would not a telescope, or many telescopes be well suited for the far side of the moon instead of at L1?
Gawad
5 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2011
Would not a telescope, or many telescopes be well suited for the far side of the moon instead of at L1?

Why would the far side be much better than the near side? Maintaining comunications with a telescope would be simpler if it were on the near side (or at a Lagrange point as is proposed with the James Webb). Hell, if you want a good place to put a lunar telescope, put one at the moon's north pole and one at its south pole, each in a crater hidden away from sunlight.
Skepticus_Rex
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 10, 2011
Not really. The brightness of the light bouncing all over the surface would obscure some things from view and the heat radiation would damage the telescopes.

The north and south poles of the moon and would be fine so long as the telescopes are placed inside shaded craters as mentioned above.
GSwift7
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 10, 2011
The north and south poles of the moon and would be fine so long as the telescopes are placed inside shaded craters as mentioned above.


Yes, at 70 K, the shaded craters would be fine. You'd have a very limited view, and for long or multiple exposures you'd have to deal with the way the moon moves around all the time. Then there's the problem of communication with Earth. You'd need to fly an orbiter or something. It would also be prudent to send an exploratory mission to scout your desired location before trying to land the telescope blind in a dark crater. Then of course, landing the telescope and probe on target in total darkness is a challenge we haven't engineered for yet either. Any lander would be in direct sunlight, and blind, until it got down inside the shadow. You would need some kind of really sensitive laser night vision gear.
Gawad
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
@Skepticus & GSwift:

Just to be clear: I think a telescope at a Lagrange point (L2) is far simpler and more effective than a (or two) Lunar based scope(s). I was mostly suspicious that Marjon is one of those English speakers that thinks the far side of the Moon is always in darkness because it is, unfortunately, usually called "the dark side of the Moon" rather than "the hidden side of the Moon" as, say, in French.

As far as getting a telescope in place on the moon, I agree that this would be quite challenging as it has to be dropped into a place of maximum shadow.

For communications with a scope--if the plan were to drop one on the Moon--however, I was thinking you could drop relays near the rim of the crater as an alternative to relying on lunar satellites. Of course, you'd have to make sure you have enough clearence all around.
ryggesogn2
1.4 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2011
Given the screw ups on the Hubble, a moon based telescope could be more easily repaired, upgraded and maintained, if people were permanently based there.
The main reason for an optical space telescope is no atm and the far side of the moon is a great place for radio telescopes as it is 'dark' from human radio emissions.
All Lagrange points will be in direct sun light, too. The only issue with that is heat dissipation, not stray light.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 10, 2011
For radio telescope, far side of the Moon is ideal.

For optical telescope, I dont think location really matters as long as it is outside Earth atmosphere.

For infrared telescope, cold permanently shadowed lunar craters may be ideal, hm?
Gawad
not rated yet Aug 10, 2011
Marjon, given the condition "if people were permanently based there" I agree it could be easier to repaire, upgrade and maintain a lunar telescope than one out at L2, but that's a BIG "if" given there are no plans for a permanent human settlement on the Moon. Also, given that such a settlement would easily cost between one to two orders of magnitude more than the James Webb, I'm wondering why you would even bring this up, given that you've been quite vocal about the cost of just the Webb.

As to the rest of what you write, concerning your reasons for favoring the dark side of the Moon, fair enough and thanks for clearing that up. The wavelenghts your instrument is built for certainly make a difference. I'll admit I was assuming a role similar to that of the Webb (infrared) when I made my suggestion.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2011
Also, given that such a settlement would easily cost between one to two orders of magnitude more than the James Webb,

The purpose of habitat on the moon would NOT be just to support a few telescopes.
The problem with any satellite project is you have to get it right the first time. There is no room for error.
I would support an L5 type manned station, privately funded.
Having humans available to fix things significantly lowers design costs.
GSwift7
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 10, 2011
I was mostly suspicious that Marjon is one of those English speakers that thinks the far side of the Moon is always in darkness


Yeah, I was laughing about that too, but didn't want to be the one to explain it.

For communications with a scope--if the plan were to drop one on the Moon--however, I was thinking you could drop relays near the rim


It's tough to get within a few kilometers of the exact spot you are aiming for, so some kind of lander capable of hopping around a bit would be needed. There's no wind though, so if you could get close enough, you might be able to use extendable booms on both your relay and your telescope in order to get line of sight. Without an atmosphere/magnetic field, there's no atmospheric bounce for radio signals there. It's nearly line of sight or nothing. Without wind though, your boom could be very tall and still not need guy wires or a foundation (just so long as it's true to plumn, and straight). Requires a lander too.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Aug 10, 2011
For infrared telescope, cold permanently shadowed lunar craters may be ideal, hm?


Probably, but I'm not certain. I don't know what the actual conditions are like, but there should be some IR from the crater rim. The sun should warm the outside crater rim to quite an intense level. I have no idea how much of that heat would conduct through to the inside of the crater rim, but it could be enough to be a PITA for a thermal telescope like Webb. Maybe. The limited field of view is a problem, whether it's technically possible or not though.
GSwift7
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 10, 2011
Back on topic though:

There's a funny irony about going to Mars, Moon, or asteroid with a human crew. You would think that making a reusable ship sounds great, at first glance. However, for a private company like SpaceX to do it, there must be paying customers. The irony of it, is that each time you go, it becomes less valued as a service. Once you satisfy the major needs of your customers, the money starts to dry up. How many kilograms of Mars rocks is NASA willing to buy, or ESA, or JAXA? The first time a human steps on Mars is certainly worth a lot in terms of auction value, but you can only sell that ticket once. Once you get samples from a few different places of interest, the people with enough money to be customers start to lose interest. I'm not even sure you could sell a moon lander service right now. Even if you could do it cheap. People already have lots of moon rocks to play with.

It would be a hoot if SpaceX beat China to the Moon though.
Gawad
5 / 5 (1) Aug 10, 2011
I would support an L5 type manned station, privately funded.
Ahhh, privately funded...yeah, you would, but what do you mean by "support"? "Agree with" or "invest in"?
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Aug 10, 2011
The only reason to go to the moon permanently is to take advantage of its features. Same for Mars.
A station at L5 would be fabricated from Lunar materials. Water can come from the moon or Mars.
A large space habitat would be a great place to set up micro-gravity research and manufacturing.
Skepticus_Rex
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 10, 2011
Another major advantage to a permanent base on the moon is that launches for interplanetary missions would be cheaper. Then, all that would be needed is just enough rocket to get the astronauts off the earth and transport them to the moon where the major launch would take place.

Another good thing about launching from the moon is that you would not be nearly as likely to alter the trajectory of the hosting body to your base with each launch, as there is with an asteroid with near zero gravity, and that there is at least some degree of gravity worth something of benefit while enabling people to lift heavier objects.

Building major projects and launches on the moon with materials manufactured on the moon also just would be an intriguing idea with merit, I think.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (9) Aug 10, 2011
No, it is best to build the ship in orbit, like the USS Enterprise, with materials launched from the moon using EM rail guns.
Stay out of the gravity wells when you can.
Plans have already been worked to launch raw materials from the moon, process them on orbit and build colonies, ships, ...
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2011
L1 point is the key point in Earth-Moon system. It is the "highest" point, and the natural choice for propellant depots and launching interplanetary missions. When launching from this point, you already have 11 km/s for free, compared to 8 km/s from low Earth orbit and 5 km/s from Moon surface (with respect to launching from Earth). And it is a "crossroads" between Earth, Moon, other L points and interplanetary destinations.

http://en.wikiped...v_budget
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2011
Neither the Lagrange points, nor the Moon is a good place to set up a habitat or construct a ship. You are much better off staying in low Earth orbit, where it's easy to do repairs and get astronauts back and forth and they would be relatively safe from radiation due to Earth's magnetic field.

That nonsense about getting "free velocity" from starting out at a Lagrange point is completely wrong. The Lagrange points move at exactly the same velocity as the Earth/Moon system. There's actually an added cost for using a Lagrange point because you have to use fuel to slow down when you get there. As a basic rule of thumb, you don't want to go in and out of gravity wells any more than you absolutely have to. As for using minerals from the Moon, that's miles away from being possible. No manufacturing processes have been created for the moon or for microgravity in orbit. The way materials move in pipes, fires burn, etc. is all different. Ever seen how a candle burns in zero G? They go out.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2011
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2011
Neither the Lagrange points, nor the Moon is a good place to set up a habitat or construct a ship. You are much better off staying in low Earth orbit, where it's easy to do repairs and get astronauts back and forth and they would be relatively safe from radiation due to Earth's magnetic field.


Indeed, lagrange points are not ideal for habitation due to radiation. but it is an ideal place for a propellant depot, refueling and launching the ship due to delta-v advantage.

ShotmanMaslo
1.3 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2011
That nonsense about getting "free velocity" from starting out at a Lagrange point is completely wrong. The Lagrange points move at exactly the same velocity as the Earth/Moon system. There's actually an added cost for using a Lagrange point because you have to use fuel to slow down when you get there.


Fuel to slow down at lagrange is minimal, on the order of few hundred m/s. Lagrange points have a delta-v advantage over low Earth orbit of about 3 km/s due to being high in Earth-Moon gravity well. That is a basic fact. You dont have to climb from Earth gravity well as when launching from LEO.

As a basic rule of thumb, you don't want to go in and out of gravity wells any more than you absolutely have to.


Uhm, what? As a basic rule of thumb, you want to start your interplanetary journey in as high orbit as possible to minimize delta-v required and/or minimize travel time. Because of this, Lagrange points are ideal to refuel and launch interplanetary spaceships.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2011
As for using minerals from the Moon,


Producing oxygen for rocket fuel on the Moon from lunar regolith is a good way to save lots of mass from being imported from Earth. This oxygen can also supply propellant depot at lagrange point.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2011
Uhm, what? As a basic rule of thumb, you want to start your interplanetary journey in as high orbit as possible


You do know that a lagrange point is a gravity well, don't you? It's a very shallow gravity well, but it is a gravity well. Your fuel depot would need to orbit the center of gravity at the lagrange point. That means the fuel depot is moving very slowly around the lagrange point. So, you leave Earth in your ship and head towards the depot. The Earth and the depot are basically moving at the same speed except for the small orbital velocity of the depot around the lagrange point. So you have to spend fuel to speed up when you leave Earth, then you have to spend fuel to slow back down when you reach the fuel depot. If you want the trip to take months, then that doesn't need to be much fuel. As you said, you want to start as high as possible. Going to a lagrange point is going back down hill.
Skepticus_Rex
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2011
No, it is best to build the ship in orbit, like the USS Enterprise

Which timeline? In one timeline the Enterprise was built on the ground. :)
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2011
No, it is best to build the ship in orbit, like the USS Enterprise

Which timeline? In one timeline the Enterprise was built on the ground. :)


In Iowa, wasn't it? I need to watch that again tonight.
Skepticus_Rex
1 / 5 (5) Aug 20, 2011
In Iowa, wasn't it?

Yes, if I remember right. I need to go watch it again, too. Looking forward to the next one done by Abrams. Hope it is just as good. :)

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